PhilHealth chief denies P15 billion corruption allegations
PhilHealth CEO Ricardo Morales
STAR/File
PhilHealth chief denies P15 billion corruption allegations
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - August 6, 2020 - 12:19pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. on Thursday vehemently rejected allegations of corruption against its executives.

"[PhilHealth] categorically denies in strongest terms that its senior officials have 'pocketed' some P15 billion," a statement from the the agency's chief Ricardo Morales, posted on Facebook and Twitter, read.

 

Controversy against the state-run agency has been mounting following former PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer Thorrsson Keith's allegations that its executives stole P15 billion from its funds through fraudulent schemes.

"What we found at PhilHealth is the crime of the year due to the syndication of the distribution of cash advance, the interim reimbursement mechanism, and the repeated overpricing of purchased IT equipment," Keith told the Senate in Filipino on Tuesday.

"Atty. Keith was hired as a job order contractor to do staff work under the Office of the President and is in no position to discuss office matters being in the Corporation for only 9 months," Morales fired back.

The PhilHealth chief in his statement also rehashed previous claims that Keith's allegations are a vengeful response to a rejected promotion.

COVID-19 response

Morales further denied that there was "favoritism" in the agency's release of funds to hospitals amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"Contrary to reports that hospitals no longer need to account for these funds, the IRM (Interim Reimbursement Mechanism) is governed by government accounting and auditing rules, hence, it is subject to liquidation by its recipients," he said.

Keith on Tuesday alleged that the the agency made unwarranted claims payments to select private hospitals amounting to hundreds of millions of pesos.

Sen. Ping Lacson further compounded on this accusation, saying that the agency's Interim Reimbursement Mechanism, which is meant for healthcare institutions hit by calamitous or "fortuitous events," was not being released to the appropriate hospitals.

According to the senator, PhilHealth released "hundreds of millions" to dialysis centers and maternity care providers but could not release P19 million to the Ospital ng Maynila which was accepting COVID-19 cases.

The Ospital ng Maynila has since been temporarily closed due to a surge in COVID-19 infections among its staff.

Meanwhile, Lacson flagged that the agency released P45 million in funds to Braun Avitum Philippines, a company of dialysis centers.

Morales during the Senate hearing defended the move by saying that the company was turning away patients due to a lack of funds.

Lacson, in turn, refuted this, saying the funds should not have been taken from the IRM, which is meant for calamities.

Morales on Thursday renewed his defense of the agency's disbursements of funds saying: "It is worthy to note that in recognition of the crucial help that the IRM plays in the fight against COVID-19, the Philippine Hospital Association, in a statement, expressed their support to its implementation in all levels of hospitals (including infirmaries) to help them to 'financially cope with the demands of increasing its capacity to respond to COVID-19.'"

In his opening statement during Tuesday's Senate hearing, Morales said that PhilHealth's fraud index is at 7.5%, amounting to P10.5B potentially lost to fraud.

However, he defended the agency, saying that "there is no health system in the world that is entirely fraud-free."

COVID-19 NOVEL CORONAVIRUS PHILIPPINE HEALTH INSURANCE CORPORATION
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